Saturday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: Jer 26:11-16, 24; Mt 14:1-12
The martyrdom of John the Baptist reminds me of all the graces we receive from the love and mercy of God, and not from any merits of our own. First, the grace of justification. Second, the grace of repentance after a grievous fall. Third, the grace of final perseverance. And fourth, the grace of martyrdom.
We cannot earn any of them, but we can pray for perseverance, and we should. The “Hail Mary”is a wonderful prayer for the grace of final perseverance.
But, when I imagine suffering martyrdom my heart is filled with dread, a fear that I would cave in to the demands of persecutors. That’s when it helps to remember that grace is not given to the imagination but to the will. When I am just imagining martyrdom I do not actually need the grace to be a martyr. But, if and when the time comes to actually be a martyr that is when I will need the grace of martyrdom.
We cannot earn it, and we may not want to suffer martyrdom, but Jesus urges us to pray for this grace in the gospel of St. Luke. I offer this prayer, inspired by his teaching, every day: “Oh Lord, I beg you for the grace of martyrdom so that I will never deny you, and so that I may have the strength to endure and escape all that is to come and to stand before you with joy on the day when you appear” (Lk 21:34).